Pro-Life Group Says Video Shows Planned Parenthood Worker Offered to Help Cover Up Sex Ring
New York (AP) - An anti-abortion group Tuesday released undercover video taken in its latest attempt to discredit Planned Parenthood - footage of operatives posing as a pimp and a prostitute seeking health services at a New Jersey clinic.
The group releasing the video, Live Action, said it depicted a clinic employee offering to help cover up a sex ring so that its prostitutes could receive health services. Planned Parenthood said it had promptly notified law enforcement authorities after the visit, but it also said it was investigating whether the clinic employee in the video may have violated some of the organization's policies.
Planned Parenthood had proactively revealed the broad outlines of the new undercover operation last week, reporting that at least 12 of its clinics across the country had been visited by men claiming to be sex-traffickers.
The organization, which is the leading U.S. provider of abortions, asked federal authorities to investigate and said it had identified a man involved in the visits as linked to Live Action.
On Tuesday, Live Action released a video that it said was taken Jan. 13 at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Perth Amboy, N.J.
In the video, a woman identified as the clinic manager converses with a man and a woman posing as sex traffickers regarding their interest in accessing contraception, abortions and sexually transmitted-disease testing for underage prostitutes.
As depicted in the video, the clinic manager advises that the underage girls could lie about their age to lessen the chance of triggering an investigation once they sought health services.
"For the most part, we want as little information as possible," the employee says, according to the video.
The video also depicts the employee suggesting that prostitutes could get cheaper contraception by claiming they were students.
"Yeah, just kind of play along that they're students - we want to make it look as legit as possible," the woman identified as the clinic manager says.
Live Action said it was making available both edited and unedited versions of the video.
"This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Planned Parenthood intentionally breaks state and federal laws and covers up the abuse of the young girls it claims to serve," said Lila Rose, president of Live Action. She called for federal and state investigations of Planned Parenthood practices, and urged Congress to cut off federal family-planning grants to the organization.
Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for New Jersey Attorney Paula Dow, says Dow's office is "looking into the allegations."
Responding to the video release, Planned Parenthood issued a statement detailing its efforts to notify state and federal authorities after the recent clinic visits. It said the FBI had been collecting evidence from Planned Parenthood employees and clinics, and reviewing photos of at least one of the persons claiming to be a trafficker.
"Planned Parenthood insists on the highest standards of care, and safeguards the trusted relationship we have with patients, families and communities," the statement said. "What appears on edited tapes made public today is not consistent with Planned Parenthood's practices, and is under review."
Phyllis Kinsler, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Central New Jersey, added that the clinic employee's behavior, as portrayed on the video, "violates PPCNJ policies, as well as our core values of protecting the welfare of minors and complying with the law, and appropriate action is being taken."
Lila Rose, in a telephone interview, declined to say whether Live Action would be releasing videos from any of the other clinics that Planned Parenthood says were visited between Jan. 11-15 by men posing as sex traffickers.
"We'll let you know if we have more to share," she said.
Rose, 22, began infiltrating abortion clinics as a college student in 2006.
After forming Live Action, she gained prominence with a series of undercover videos in which she posed as a girl in her early teens who had been impregnated by an older man. The aim was to portray Planned Parenthood staff as willing to ignore laws that required the reporting of cases of suspected statutory rape.
The video release coincided with debate in New Jersey over Republican Gov. Chris Christie's decision to cut $7.5 million from this year's budget for clinics specializing in women's reproductive health.
A Democratic-backed bill to restore the funds specifies that no state money would be used for abortion services but would be used for things like low-cost birth control, breast exams and Pap smears. Planned Parenthood, which performs abortions, would be eligible for money to help with non-abortion services.
Citing the new video, Marie Tasy of New Jersey Right to Life urged lawmakers to ensure that funds to Planned Parenthood were cut off.
"New Jersey taxpayers ... should be outraged that an organization claiming to conduct `extensive community outreach' has been caught on tape doing everything in its power to conceal the sexual abuse and exploitation of girls as young as 14," Tasy said.
Planned Parenthood, a frequent target of protest campaigns, operates more than 800 health centers across the country offering a range of health and family planning services to about 3 million patients a year. The centers accounted for 324,008 abortions in 2008, about one-fourth of the national total.
In detailing the series of clinic visits, Planned Parenthood spokesman Stuart Schear last week assailed the undercover tactics.
"Falsely claiming sex trafficking to health professionals to advance a political agenda is an astoundingly cynical form of political activity," he said.
Associated Press writer Beth deFalco in Trenton, N.J., contributed to this report.